It’s exciting that Sustrans, one of Britain's major cycle advocacy groups, has come out in support of the network approach to cycling in the capital, through their Connect London campaign.
The major benefit of a city-wide network of quieter, backstreet cycle routes is obvious. All Londoners would reliably be able to cycle from A to B on safer, more pleasant streets, thus removing the main barrier to cycling: fear.
Sustrans have sensibly pointed out that the network approach is consistent with the London Cycling Campaign’s call for better facilities on London’s major roads and junctions; indeed, a network would complement such facilities, by making them more useful, as part of a city-wide infrastructure. (Moreover, the LCC was originally founded upon a commitment to a network, and a few years ago campaigned directly for a ‘Bike Grid’ before changing emphasis.)
At this stage, there are a few details missing from the Sustrans proposals. They could do worse than checking out Cycle Lifestyle’s 100 Reasons for a London Cycle Map for a few suggestions.
Some aspects of the Sustrans campaign are especially underdeveloped, but especially important. For instance, there isn't much detail about how the network will be mapped. The squiggly map provided in the Connect London report barely differs from the inadequate London Cycle Network map already in existence.
Sustrans Connect London map (a slightly different version can also be seen here):
London Cycle Network map (an online LCN map can also be seen here):
Nor is there any detail about how Sustrans envisages the network to be signed. The main objective of a network is to provide continuous, safe cycle routes, and so the main determinant of the success of the network is going to be how easy it is to follow those routes. This consideration is especially important when Sustrans are aiming for a network that will support cross-city journeys as well as local journeys.
Simon Parker’s London Cycle Map fills in the gaps in the Sustrans proposals.
He has invented an ingenious and beautiful way to map London’s current cycle network (with a few extra routes included) – by representing the network as a serious of long straight coloured routes connecting any two areas of the capital.
In turn, Parker’s map suggests how to sign the routes on the London Cycle Network: with coloured road markings and signs corresponding to the coloured routes on the map. Following the routes on Parker’s map would be as easy as navigating on the Tube – in both cases, by remembering a few coloured routes and where to change from one to the other.
Finally, Parker’s map suggests how to reconcile local journeys with longer journeys on the London Cycle Network. His map defines cycling motorways, as it were, that connect the capital at a macro level. But these motorways would also need to be fully integrated with borough level – micro level – cycle facilities. To achieve this, every junction on Parker’s network would display not just a London Cycle Map but a detailed local map showing how Parker’s routes connect with the local cycle network.
In order for Sustrans to succeed in finishing the London Cycle Network, then above all they will need to solve the problems that Parker’s map has solved – the problems left unsolved by the original London Cycle Network. Yes, the solutions are subtle. But they provide the innovations that Sustrans will need if their Connect London proposal is to be genuinely groundbreaking. We would love to work with Sustrans to help deliver the cycle network the capital deserves.